Las Baulas National Park

Jul 1st 2011
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Nesting ground of the largest living sea turtle

Just north of Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula, Las Baules National Marine Park attracts the largest nesting colony of leatherback sea turtles (baulas) on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, with hundreds of female turtles flippering ashore each year.

Bilingual rangers lead small groups, lighting the way with masked flashlights (light disorients the turtles) to where leatherbacks—at up to ten feet long, the largest of all living sea turtles--dig holes in the sand and drop in their large, white flexible-skinned eggs.

Leatherbacks have been around for 65 million years, but in recent years they have become endangered.
According to the Leatherback Trust, in 1980 there were over 115,000 adult females, but there are now fewer than 25,000 worldwide.

Nesting season is approximately October through April (which roughly corresponds to Costa Rica’s summer, or dry season--see When to Visit). During this time, a night tour of the nesting beaches can be an unforgettable experience.

The park protects 936 terrestrial and 54,000 marine acres and is close to Tamarindo, a burgeoning town where massive condo developments sit cheek by jowl with funky surfer hangouts. There’s been a recent moratorium on certain kinds of highrise building, but some projects seem exempt from the new rules, and enough got in under the wire that development is now encroaching on turtle territory.

The ranger station at Playa Grande is open from 8 am to 4 pm during turtle season (Oct-March); call during other months to confirm hours. Guided tours are available with bi-lingual park employees (book ahead). For minimum impact, a limited number of visitors is allowed each evening. There's also an excellent turtle museum at the station, well worth a visit.

See also Explore the Sea Turtles of Costa Rica.

Area Nicoya Peninsula
CategoriesActivities, Beaches & Towns, Kid-Friendly, Parks & Reserves
Adult Price$10
Hours8 am to 4 pm., every day